Three Takeaways From The 2016 Podcast Movement Conference
July 12, 2016
Last week, the Jacobs Media team and I attended the third annual Podcast Movement conference in Chicago. This event brought together 1400 podcasters from all over the world. The attendees included people with a wide variety of backgrounds and skill levels, from those who haven't recorded their first episode yet, to public radio veterans intimately familiar with the space. (You can read Fred Jacobs' reflections on the event here.)
Last year, I criticized commercial radio broadcasters for their absence at this event. This year was different. This year, dozens of commercial broadcasters showed up to see what the excitement was all about. Representatives from Emmis, Cox, Townsquare, Beasley, Hubbard, Alpha, Scripps, NRG, and more were on hand. (See what they had to say about the conference here.) If you weren't able to attend, you may want to seek out a colleague who did and ask them what they learned.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the event:
1. There is incredible energy in the space.
The vibe at Podcast Movement is unlike what you'll find at most radio conferences these days. When radio broadcasters get together, the conversation involves a lot of doom and gloom. When podcasters get together, on the other hand, there's an enormous amount of excitement about the future. There's creative energy, passion, and a sense of optimism. Greater Media's Buzz Knight compared it to the feeling you get when you attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. If you want to feel inspired about the future of audio content, this conference will do it.
2. The medium is still in its early stages.
Although podcasting technology has been around for over a decade, this space is still relatively immature compared to traditional mediums, like television and radio, or even new mediums like blogging. The corporate players, like GE, who recently produced a podcast called The Message with the help of Panoply, are just beginning to invest in the space. Measurement standards are just starting to emerge as the IBA is working to build consensus among over two dozen of the players in the podcasting space. Monetization models are still being refined. If podcasting were television, Serial would be I Love Lucy. In the next ten years, we can expect more standardization, more best practices, more consolidation, and more investment as the space matures.
3. The biggest challenges that podcasters face are building an audience and monetizing...and radio is well-positioned to address both.
Many podcasters cited the lack of a sophisticated "podcast discovery" mechanism as a reason that they struggle to build an audience. Most successful podcasters have achieved their status by building on an existing platform. This may be comedians like Joe Rogan and Kevin Smith with existing fanbases, or organizations like NPR or Audible with existing audiences.
Podcasters with small audiences are struggling to attract sponsorship dollars, and even the podcasters who have established audiences are still charting new revenue streams. While dynamic ad insertion technology is enabling podcasters to target audiences based on date and location, there's still a lot of debate over how to best serve clients. While host reads appear to be most effective, some are concerned about the journalistic ethics of this method. While there's much more advertiser interest in podcasts than there was a few years ago, podcasters still don't have the broad interest that more established mediums command.
But radio broadcasters are uniquely positioned to take on both of these challenges. Radio stations have existing audiences that they can promote their podcasts to, and they have existing relationships with advertisers, making it much easier for them to attract sponsorship dollars. In short, commercial radio broadcasters should be able to find success in this space.
NEXT STEP: I am hosting a new podcast called, DASH: The Future of Radio in the Connected Car. It's a series of interviews with thought leaders in the automotive and radio broadcasting industries that were conducted backstage at last year's DASH Conference. Check it out.